Before the holidays I had a chance to speak with director Jaume Balaguero, co-creator of the [REC] series with Paco Plaza. After co-directing [REC] and [REC] 2 together, Plaza directed [REC] 3 and Balaguero returns to direct [REC] 4: Apocalypse, continuing the story of the Spanish zombie outbreak that began as a found footage horror movie.
Since [REC] 3 went its own direction with an outbreak at a wedding, [REC] 4 picks up from the end of [REC] 2 with reporter Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco] being discovered in the infected building and taken to a military vessel for safety and further study. [REC] 4 is available Jan. 2 in theaters and on VOD from Magnet Releasing.
Nuke the Fridge: Do you prefer to approach a sequel starting right where the last one ended?
Jaume Balaguero: Yes. When I was involved with [REC] 2, the movie was a continuation of the first one. It started at the end of the first one, and in the fourth, I was really interested in taking the story at the point it was finished in the second one, because the third one was like a parallel story. It was happening at the same time as the first one and the second one, so I decided to take this point at the end of the second one and keep this iconic character Angela Vidal, the journalist in the first and second movies.
Nuke: Are you and Paco Plaza taking turns directing [REC] sequels now?
Jaume Balaguero: No, in fact we are not interested in making sequels. We made sequels of the [REC] series because of the success of the first and second one, but in fact normally we are not interested in making sequels. We are not working on [REC] 5. [REC] is finished with the fourth and now we are working on other original movies, and separately. Paco is making his movie and I am making my own movies now.
Nuke: Did you return to the exact same building as the first two [REC] movies?
Jaume Balaguero: Yes, [REC] 4 starts in the same building and we shot in the same building as the first two. It is an empty building in Barcelona and the owner of the building offers his building for movies. There’s a lot of Spanish movies taking place in that building.
Nuke: Why was it important to you to come back to the character of Angela?
Jaume Balaguero: For me it was the most important thing for this last chapter, for [REC] 4. I wanted to finish the saga with the same big character that entered the building in the first one. We entered that building in the first one with that girl and she became very iconic. A lot of people remember the first movie with the face of that girl. I thought it was very important to finish and leave the building and enter this boat with the same girl.
Nuke: Was Manuela Velasco disappointed she was not in [REC] 3?
Jaume Balaguero: No, she was not disappointed. In fact, she was not thinking about more in the series when I told her the idea of making the last one and invited her to be with us in that adventure. She was really excited to come back, but in fact when she saw [REC] 3 she loved it. She’s a big fan of the third one.
Nuke: Since [REC] 1 and 2 were in the found footage format, did you and Paco want to make [REC] 3 and 4 in different styles?
Jaume Balaguero: There are similar reasons for that. The first one, probably the most important, is because for me, these kind of movies, found footage movies or subjective movies, work when you can accept how the movie is shot this way. You can believe it. In the first [REC], you had this journalist with her cameraman making the reports. They keep shooting with their own camera and you believe the way the movie is told. In the second one, we had this team of military entering the building and shooting with their camera. It’s something very usual in these kind of special teams. In the third and fourth, it was very difficult for us to find the way to depict this realistically. How can we explain a movie with a subjective camera and be credible for the audience? It’s impossible to have another journalist or cameraman. It’s impossible to have another military team with their own camera. Then we decided okay, if it’s not credible for the audience then it won’t work. Then we decided to explore other kinds of elements and other kinds of narratives. At the same time, we wanted to make a different movie, not to repeat the same camera of the previous ones. We wanted to make every sequel completely different and unexpected. That’s why the third one is like a comedy, tragicomedy, and the fourth is like a B movie with adventure, with survival. We wanted to make every sequel a completely different movie. Four different ways to approach horror.
Nuke: And you did found footage with [REC] 1 and 2 before it became such a big thing in Hollywood. Were you surprised that so many Hollywood movies started doing found footage?
Jaume Balaguero: Yes, of course. When we started to work on [REC], there were very few examples of this kind of narrative. There was The Blair Witch Project and old movies like Cannibal Holocaust. [There was] Belgian comedy horror movie, [Man Bites Dog], very interesting but not very well known probably in the United States, just three or four examples of these kinds of movies. When we were finishing the editing of [REC], then we discovered the trailer of a new American movie called Cloverfield. We were really surprised and I think Cloverfield and [REC] were released at the same time more or less. Both of them were a big success and probably the reason why then a lot of people were interested to keep this way of telling a horror story. But yes, we were really, really surprised by this phenomenon.
Nuke: Was it hard to shoot in those tight spaces on the boat of [REC] 4?
Jaume Balaguero: Yes, it was a nightmare in fact. We decided to shoot in a real boat just to keep the atmosphere, the claustrophobia. It was really painful and very difficult to shoot inside that boat for seven weeks. In fact, we built some parts of the boat in a studio just to have the ability to make some shots, because the space inside the boat was so narrow, it was very difficult to move in those corridors.
Nuke: You say you’re done with the [REC] series, but if someone came to you with an idea for [REC] 5, would you let them do it?
Nuke: What are your plans for future films?
Jaume Balaguero: I’m working now on a new movie but it’s nothing to do with horror. It’s more like a thriller, a suspenseful movie. But at the same time, I’m working on a horror movie. I’m working on both projects now. The horror one is based on a Spanish novel, a very creepy novel and it’s a very strong horror story about muses, the women who inspire poets, a horror story about that.
Nuke: What are your favorite horror movies?
Jaume Balaguero: A thousand of them, but when people ask me about my favorite horror movies, I always tell them The Other, the Robert Mulligan film. It’s a very scary and very beautiful movie about these children. It’s like a supernatural story and I love that movie. I saw it when I was a child and I think it was one of the horror movies that made me decide I want to make something like that in my life.